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Walking Helps You Cope with Osteoarthritis

You Set the Pace

By

Updated June 17, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

You may not be inclined to lace up your walking shoes and head outside if your joints are aching, but regular walking can help you cope with osteoarthritis. The most important thing is for you not to be discouraged because osteoarthritis pain is preventing you from walking a significant distance. Walk as much as you're able to at first; you'll still benefit. Then, build on that at your own pace.

It's easy to overlook the benefits of walking, especially if you believe that you can't walk long enough or far enough for it to matter. You may not even like how you look when you walk, and you may try to hide your imperfect gait. But allow me to make a prediction. If you try walking, you will like it. Walking can improve your quality of life and:

Improve Muscle Strength

If you haven't heard it enough times already, allow me to say it once more. It is essential for people with arthritis to stay active and to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Walking is an activity that helps you build muscle strength. Strong muscles help support your joints and improve posture and balance. As you commit to a regular walking program, you will benefit from your efforts and will likely surprise yourself along the way.

Help to Maintain Your Ideal Weight

Regular walking burns calories to help you lose or maintain your ideal weight. Maintaining your ideal weight is an important aspect of managing osteoarthritis pain and symptoms. Carrying extra weight adds stress to joints affected by osteoarthritis.

Improve Your Mood

Walking, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the warm weather make you feel alive. Whether you walk briskly or not-so-briskly, it is reinvigorating and uplifting. Getting out in the world and walking is good for your psyche and actually spark motivation. Your brighter mood and uplifted spirit come from feeling functional.

Socialize Along the Way

As you make your way through the neighborhood, whether you walk past a few houses or many, smile and greet the neighbors you encounter. Your smile is infectious - you will get one if you give one. You will feel better in every way after a bit of human interaction. You can consider the human interaction a side benefit of walking.

Helps You Sleep

Disrupted sleep is a complaint of many osteoarthritis patients. Pain keeps people awake; not being able to find a comfortable position keeps people awake; and stress also interferes with good sleep. After a peaceful walk, you will feel more relaxed and ready to sleep.

Your Treadmill Is an Option

If you can't be convinced to go outside for a walk, not even by your dog, consider indoor walking. Treadmills are an option -- you can still achieve the physical benefits of walking, but you will lack the social interaction that is important when coping with osteoarthritis.

For more expert advice, go to Walking at About.com

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